IT is no more news that the use of antimicrobials to treat animals also exposes the consumers of the animal to risk that can lead to death if not properly handled.
Antimicrobials are drugs used for the treatment of infections caused by micro-organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites in animals and humans. Antimicrobials include antibiotics, antifungals, and antivirals, antiparasitic. Antibiotics are drugs used to treat bacterial infections like Salmonella that causes typhoid fever, antifungals are for fungal infections and so on.
Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) occurs when disease causative agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasite, among others change, over time and no longer respond to the action of antimicrobials to which they were hitherto susceptible, thus making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is considered as one of the most important threats to public health globally.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that Antimicrobial Resistant (AMR) could cause 10 million deaths a year by 2050 if unchecked.
FAO Representative in Nigeria and ECOWAS, Fred Kafeero said currently, 700,000 persons die globally every year due to drug-resistant diseases.
FAO said in Nigeria, antibiotics used in animals and plants are purchased off the counter without expert prescription, this is coupled with the absence of statutory legislation to restrict the use of antimicrobial as growth promoters.
A report by the Department of Veterinary and Pest Control Services of the Ministry of Agruclture and Rural Development, said Antimicrobial Resistance can be caused by all forms of inappropriate use of antimicrobials promote development of resistance by microorganisms in humans, animals, crops and environment.
“This can be in form of Misuse – when it is not needed, such as treating viral infections with antibiotics, use as growth promoters in food animals (livestock, poultry & aquaculture), etc. Overuse of antibiotics.
“Underuse – under-dosing, non-completion of treatment, Environmental contamination from improper disposal of expired drugs and chemicals”.
On the factors that determine emergence of resistant pathogens the report said “poor quality medicinal products containing low amounts of active ingredients in circulation also encourage the emergence of resistant organisms. Ease of access to antibiotics without a prescription.
“Use of antibiotics as growth promoters and egg boosters by livestock farmers leading to exposure of pathogenic microbes to low grade and subthreshold levels of antimicrobial residues and development of resistance which can be transmitted to humans and environment.
“Lack of observance of withdrawal period in food animals. Slaughter of animals and sale of animal products after treatment with drugs without observing withdrawal periods as well as administration of drugs to birds awaiting sale in live bird markets also enhance development of resistance by leaving some antimicrobial residues in animal products such as meat, milk and eggs.
“Poor infection prevention and control in health-care facilities, veterinary clinics and inadequate biosecurity on farms. Absence of regulatory legislation and lack of enforcement of legislation when available”.
Dr Fadipe Oladotun, a veterinary practitioner who recently spoke with Nigerian Tribune said most poultry farmers who are out to make gains, sell off their birds immediately they administer antibiotics on them without observing the withdrawal period.
Dr Oladotun explained that if a person consumes a bird that still has particles of antibiotics in its system, it is as good as the person taking the antibiotics by him or herself, but in low quantity, which will now make the person develop resistance to that antibiotics, that when the person consumes that antibiotics in the future, it won’t be potent.
He explained that if birds are laying eggs, there are some types of antibiotics that should not be administered to them so that it doesn’t find its way into the egg.
“If some birds are laying eggs, there are some antibiotics that is not supposed to used on them because it has a way of entering into the egg that they are laying, if human beings consume those eggs, the process will also be followed because definitely those in that egg is very small, and that is what builds up in the system to eventually cause problem of antibiotics resistance in man”.
“The remedy is to follow instructions, if you know you have given the animal antibiotics, make sure you wait for the time that is called withdrawal period and they are not very long period, most of them are about 7 days, it is only very few that is more than 7 days, some are five days.
“If that period is followed, definitely the problem will not arise. The problem we even have is indiscriminate use of antibiotics, a lot of people don’t wait for prescription before they look for antibiotics and give their chicken, sometimes even chicken that are not even sick because they don’t want them to fall sick, they pumping antibiotics into them and because they are business people, once they see buyers, they just sell it off”, he explained.
Also recently, the President of the Nigeria Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA), Dr Ibrahim Shehu said that the activities of quack veterinarians poses serious threat to the nation’s economy.
“They pose a great danger to the economy and in the sense that they don’t really know the practice of Veterinary medicine in the country. They prescribe drugs that are not supposed to be given”, he said.
Dr Shehu said that the resurgence of the Antimicrobial Resistance was as a result of quacks administering antibiotics wrongly.
“Just like the current resurgence of the Antimicrobial Resistance that we are getting, the quacks are the ones contributing to it.
“A licensed Veterinarian knows all the rules of prescription of antibiotics, their withdrawal period and when it is healthy to consume animal administered antibiotics. The quacks don’t really know the details of this, so they do things unprofessionally”, he said.
“AMR threatens our ability to effectively treat common infectious diseases in humans and animals leading to prolonged illness and increase in deaths.
“It projected that by 2050, AMR could account for up to 10 million deaths annually, an increase from about 700,000 deaths today. Of the 10 million deaths, it estimated that 40% or 4 million of the deaths will occur in Africa by 2050.
“We are not developing new drugs to cope with increasing resistance to existing ones. Antibiotics research and development (R&D) has been insufficient in the last 20 years, due to significant scientific, regulatory, and economic hurdles”, the report from the Ministry of Agriculture said.
On the consequences of AMR, the report said “infections become difficult to treat in humans and animals, increased morbidity and mortality, loss of livelihoods increased cost of production, threatened food security and food safety”.
The report said to stop AMR, there is the need to “ensure responsible and prudent use of antimicrobials”. It said this includes implementing practical measures and recommendations aimed at the improvement of animal health and animal welfare, while preventing or reducing the selection, emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance.
“Give priority to good animal husbandry, biosecurity, vaccinations and good hygiene practices so as to maintain animal health.
As much as possible use alternatives to antibiotics such as probiotics as guided by your Veterinary Doctor.
“Only use antimicrobials when prescribed by a veterinarian (or other suitably trained person authorized to prescribe veterinary drugs).
Not every infection needs to be treated with antimicrobials.
“Do not use antimicrobials as growth promoters. Follow the exact dosing instructions given by the veterinarian. Follow the length of treatment as prescribed – even if the animal seems to have recovered.
“Observe recommended withdrawal period for food animals.Only obtain antimicrobials from authorized sources that can ensure the quality of the products. Animal owners should develop a health plan for their animals with their veterinarian or an animal health professional to protect them from infection. Keep adequate written records of all antimicrobials used and of laboratory results”.